There’s this Instagram meme that says, “People will see you walking on water and say it’s because you can’t swim.” Talk about truth! As I’ve traveled the world by myself and dealt with a multitude of personality types, I’ve come to understand that those who are fearful of pursuing the life they want or feel limited in what they can do will often project those feelings of inferiority or incapability onto the people actually going out and grabbing life by the reigns. Even more so, others who let fear, worry, insecurity, and anxiety rule their decision-making will often become pessimistic without even knowing it and use the excuse of “trying to protect you.” This is why I refrain from telling most people about the moves and decisions I make until I’ve already made them, because it’s so important I don’t allow the words, thoughts, and nervous ENERGY of others seep into my mental. And here’s why you shouldn’t either.
You Will Dull Your Shine
I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone wants to let go. We all want to take off the mask, take the risk, start that business, buy that plane ticket, be happy with our bodies, and follow the direction of our hearts, but most of us are too fearful. Doing all these things means you may be one of the only ones stepping out, and being one of the few stepping out could very well mean that you will be lonely for some time. It’s true what they say, “Misery loves company.” When a negative person sees you doing everything they wish they could do, too, they’ll try to hold you down in fear with them by mocking or gossiping about you. If you allow this to change your mind about something you’re excited about doing or becoming, then you will begin to shrink who you are when you have every right to shine!
You May Regret A Missed Opportunity
Almost two years ago, I wanted to leave California and teach English in Thailand. I had already had round-trip ticket booked to Bangkok so I could first check out the area where I would get my TSOL and begin working, and she didn’t even want me doing that. My mother was terrified to the point where she called all of my cousins and relatives just to have them try to convince me to stay, (which was extremely ANNOYING, by the way). I ended up going to Thailand for a two-week stint, but later that year, decided to stay back in the states because I let her fear change my mind. Each time I see a picture of myself a the temples in Bangkok, I question for a small second, if I made the best choice. See, when you make life decisions for YOUR LIFE based on SOMEONE ELSE’S anxiousness, you could look back one day a feel as though you short-changed yourself out of a beautiful opportunity.
You Won’t Enjoy The Journey To the Fullest
So let’s say you actually go and do that thing you decided on doing, like say move to another state. If you let others discourage you while your mid-process, you may begin to worry about everything that could possibly go wrong, and if you devote too much time worrying about that, how can you thoroughly enjoy the beautiful things you’ll experience throughout the journey?
So, how does one deal with an anxious person and dodge the discouragement?
Come from Empathy
Now a days, when people run rampant around me, I just sit back and observe like a small child. When I take the time to ask them questions and understand the context from which they come, it gives me a chance to look at the situation with empathy. About a good 99% of the time, the fear has everything to do with them ( their experiences with being a victim, being hurt, being ridiculed, failing, etc.). It’s important to remember that your actions are NOT the cause of their anxiety or insecurity, they’re the scapegoat for it.
Be The Calm One
When someone erupts with nervous tension, it’s usually rooted in a fear of the unknown or a fear of losing control. Picture someone who can’t swim being thrown into a 10-foot pool. They’re going to kick and waile and splash until they find that ledge to hold on to that guarantees their safety. Be that ledge.
For example, when I went to Nigeria by myself for the first time, my mother called me all the time badgering me about getting my visa, calling my relatives, creating my itinerary, etc. During one phone call, she went on a whole nervous tangent.
“Okay, have you called your uncle yet? Okay, you need to call him. Oh, and don’t claim any big amount of money. Oh, and don’t count your money in public, okay? Also, don’t speak with anybody in the airport, just walk straight through.” She rambled on quickly. “Don’t even engage them. Also, make sure you have big bills only. OKAY? Big bills, only. Ummmmm, what else, what else…”
“Okay, Mommy, listen,” I interrupted. “I understand that you’re very concerned for my safety because you’ve seen and been through things growing up in Nigeria. And you know how it is, and how some people are out there. I get it. I know you are scared because I am your child and that is natural for a mother to feel some worry, but you have to understand that I will be okay.” I made sure I spoke in a calm tone, and reassured her that I knew how to hold my own.
Flip It Into Something Positive
When it comes to our colleagues or associates who spew their negativity onto us, with or without knowing, always spin it into something positive. For example, my mentor, who stands out of a crowd with beautiful big hair and glamorous outfits, was approached by a woman at a restaurant one day.
“Oh my goodness. You know, you look like Whoopi Goldberg!” the lady said enthusiastically, covering a motive of insult.
“I do look like a rich Black woman who has millions! Thank you for that compliment!” my mentor replied genuinely.
When you are met with pessimism, reply with something optimistic. It drives them INSANE!
Set The Boundary
It’s one thing to simply ignore someones negativity or anxious projections, but it’s equally important to put them in place when they are consistent in it. Not only does this help prevent your own anxiety build-up, but it provides a framework for others on how you want to be treated. Following the same example of my mother’s phone call:
“You know, Mommy, I really don’t like when you call me and complain like this. It gets me riled up and nervous and then I go through my day the same way, and I don’t want that. And then, also, if we’re both running around with our heads cut off, neither one of us can think clearly and how can we get anything done that way? It would better of you and I if next time you called me asking about something I’m looking forward to rather than feeding me all the bad things to look out for. Is that something you think we can do?”
Find Success Stories
Whenever I set my heart on doing something that others render as “risky”, “hard to do” or crazy”, I seek out the success stories. Look, everyone has to start somewhere; you are not the first to do step out of the box, and you certainly won’t be the last. Find, research, and learn about the people before you who have done what you want to do and were triumphant in it. It’s a great way to re-encourage yourself when others say differently. We already have to deal with overcoming our own self-doubt and worry, why take on someone else’s, too?
throwback picture taken by Vita E. Amore